Seven new HIV cases a month in NI

Published Wednesday, 28 November 2012
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The number of people diagnosed with HIV in Northern Ireland has risen by more than 300% over the last decade, figures have shown.

Seven new HIV cases a month in NI
Advances in medicine mean HIV medication is more simple and more effective. (© UTV)

On average, there are almost seven new cases diagnosed per month.

The figures may be small compared to the extent of the problem in other parts of the world, but they still go towards showing that the virus has touched every part of the globe.

Around the world, 34 million people have HIV.

It used to be viewed as a death sentence, but now advanced anti-retroviral drugs mean many of those affected can live full lives.

Matthew Cavan, 23, has spoken to UTV Live Tonight about his experiences living with HIV in Northern Ireland.

He said when he was diagnosed three years ago, life was difficult because he did not know much about the infection.

"I felt instantly dirty, because that title was attached to me. Matthew Cavan, HIV positive," he explained.

"As I started to learn about what HIV was my mindset changed and I saw that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was going to be a difficult journey, but there was hope there."

This medication is my lifeline and I need to be very strict with myself, and keep that routine that I take my tablets every night at 11pm and I do that for the rest of my life.

Matthew Cavan

Matthew started taking medication in January and soon discovered his tablets came with extreme side effects.

"I got severe drunk-like feelings, very nauseous, and really bad, vivid dreams and I was very woozy all the time. My partner at the time had to carry me to bed."

But he said it is vital to take medication every night in order to live the life he wants.

"I can't miss a dose. HIV is that intelligent that if you miss a dose there's a possibility that you will need to completely change your whole combination of medication, because it can overcome that medication that fast.

Another young man who is very open about his condition also spoke to UTV, after living with HIV for three years.

Michael Carchrie Campbell said his husband has supported his journey with HIV, and ensures that he takes his medication on time.

"It's a reminder that you are HIV positive and there's a perceived stigma, and there are still people who will turn their nose up at you.

"I don't want to pass HIV to my husband, so you always have to be careful, safe sex, but that's the way life is. We all have our ups and downs but at the moment it's looking up to the future," he added.

But Michael said more people need to become informed about how HIV is contracted.

"There are young people who don't know how HIV is passed on and it's education that we need to educate our youth and anyone in Northern Ireland that's having sex.

"All it takes is one unsafe sex and you could have it, or you might be lucky and you don't, but you won't know unless you go and get tested," he added.

People that are diagnosed early, if they engage with specialist care, can enjoy a normal life expectancy.

Dr Say Quan

As the right medication is key to keeping the virus at bay, those with HIV attend Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for specialist treatment.

Dr Say Quan explained that advances in HIV treatment mean most people take one or two pills just once a day.

"It has transformed people's lives," he explained.

"Compared to 20 years ago, when we expected most people will not survive the HIV disease."

In the UK, around 90,000 people are living with HIV.

Almost half are gay and bisexual men, while heterosexual men and women account for most of the other cases.

It is believed that the numbers of people infected with the virus may be higher than reported - but some remain unaware that they have contracted the infection.

"Stats have shown that men who have sex with men are more likely to be tested, while heterosexuals are less likely to be tested," said Dr Quan.

Positive Life NI telephone: 0800 137 437
"Because of that they are often more likely to present later because they have not been tested and therefore their outlook might not be as good."
© UTV News
Comments Comments
Kate in N.I wrote (792 days ago):
Why are people so stupid these days and don't use condoms, they aren't available for the fun of it, they save lives and stop people from catching HIV. I don't want my children being put at risk from this horrible disease, the more people that catch it the more widespread its going to become. People need to stop playing with their lives and take some responsibility for their own health and wellbeing!
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